This heat takes my breath away.
Tuesday, May 08, 2018
Day by day, hour by hour, act by act, slowly, slowly I work to build meaning into my existence, to draw open ever wider the dark, heavy, velvety curtains to reveal the why the how and the universe and the way to move through it without setting fire to it or collapsing under the weight of its skyscrapers and cathedrals. I am both alone and never alone. The hour is mine to fill as I please, I am the designer of my days, as a single woman of the 21st century in the free world, I am rich in the currency of time, which is directly correlated with greater uncertainty of futures, which is unnerving because in the end there are two certainties which we cannot bend: the linear unidirectional nature of time as we experience it, and the endpoint of that line. Therefore these bricks laid and decisions made or not yet made to what end? A house, a mansion? A labyrinthian city whose roads run off the grid? A house-like structure glued to a paper plate covered haphazardly with candies and left to gather dust for a decade, or two? An unfinished pile of rocks? A stonehenge, a Venus? Who will love these attempts at building? Hungrily yet methodically without knowing what for, I forage through spring trees and painted deserts, through the words, stories, equations and formulas discovered by others, through the workings of my own skeletomusculature, through the innocence of babies to sustain myself. I am often hungry but have high hopes of finding a rhythm of feeding. A regularity in my days.
Friday, February 16, 2018
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Dance is more than mechanics, though: it is a harmonious marriage of mechanics and music, where the former is the how, and the latter is the why- and the result is either joy or endorphins.
Wednesday, August 02, 2017
Thursday, June 15, 2017
Monday, April 24, 2017
I toss away behind me on either side of me the notion that I must create for appearances, money, or fame-- for others, in other words. I reacquire the desire to do the things I do because I simply want to. To create for myself and myself only. To sing for myself and myself only.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
In rumba and other afrocuban dances, knee bends are your metronome. And they always bend down. Never straighten the knees.
The hip reacts to the bend of the knee in threes.
The front forearm is affirmatively placed across the body, out and in. Tossing the scarf out and bringing it back in. The crossing brings the arms out of the body to the side of it, as if opening to the side.
The two feet subtly open in the same direction, together, as one.
The shoulders circle vertically and from under in opposition to each other, especially in initiation of a step.
Before any step is taken, lengthen the neck, loosen the shoulders as the claves and congas sound. Feel the circularity in the shoulder girdle.
Do not run. Listen to the music.
Orishas today was San Lazaro featuring the clock-like bounce of the knees.
Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
There is a lot of that- going through an alternate path to get from simple A to B. For instance, quite often in the study of dance, you get the physical result you want by going through the imaginary channel; by visualizing and the use of imagery and metaphor, you make your body do what it is physically supposed to do (per your own will or intention). The mind and body are intimately linked. Just as how in language, metaphor and imagery are connective channels or tools used to generate cognitive understanding whether within oneself or between two or more people, in dance, too, they are tools used to generate understanding between the mind and the body. After all, dance is itself a language so it is reasonable that it would function under the same laws and patterns of behavior and evolution.
A somewhat related phenomenon is when you create a physical effect with your body by only giving the intention of doing the perceived effect, but not actually doing it fully. A holding back of energy of sorts, for the full energy would actually overburden and thus work against the result you want, toppling it over in a manner of speaking. In this type of situation, the mind's intention of an act generates the full physical act. Intention becomes a powerful tool in dance.
Sometimes you teach your body to access the intended physical result by going through the imagination, and then once the feel of it is achieved and experienced, you can go back and access the same feel or result by pure anatomical awareness and reasoning. Often to attempt to do the latter first fails to produce the desired result because well, simply the body is complex, and forces and energy are unseen but very much a part of human movement. Both knowledge of anatomy, physiology and physics, as well as the imagination are required to learn how to dance. Dance is very much like the world of complex numbers: one part real and one part imaginary, or as we say in the world of numbers: A+Bi.
The discovery and study of Cuban dance (Cuban modern, rumba, Orishas) has been akin to the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry, where the shortest distance between two points is no longer a straight line but a curve. Prior to the Cuban dances, dance for me was very linear and angular. What makes Cuban dance so mezmerizing and difficult to pinpoint is its basis in circular movement. Once this is understood, the origin of their movements and the movements themselves become clear (or clearer).
The goal in studying the minutiae of dance in all its variants, for me, has always been to get closer and closer to the truth- the way of moving with absolute ease and freedom; with minimal, targeted energy expended; with the least amount of pain or damage inflicted on the instrument; and with the ability to adapt to different styles. Ideal movement of the human body should supercede style.
...Going back to origin, ballet for me is...classic...romantic...lofty...In daily practice sans makeup and acting, but with all the rigors of repetition at the barre, it carries a sort of Spartan grace. Stoic and militant, but simultaneously expressive in an unearthly way. It is the opposite of earthy; it is not of this world. If you can move gracefully and expressively within such strict boundaries of squareness, uprightness, and centeredness, then you can most certainly move out of squareness, with a curved or bent spine, and out of center. As one of my teachers told me, you must know Center to move out of Center. Said another way, you must have control to lose control.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
A giant four-story mansion rising nonchalantly from the street labeled Concordia in Old Havana. Soft yellow facade richly sculpted and terraced on every floor. Huge arching windows. Inside, a wide, stone staircase spirals up into a vast, open, airy space of crumbling concrete and shredded ochre walls. Ceiling and arched windows of staggering height, held up by stone columns spaced out by sculpted archways. Smooth, dusty concrete floor. Void of any furniture or fixtures- only clotheslines zigzagging every which way across its emptiness. The landing is thrown into shadows by the winding stone staircase overhead that leads to the next floor. A silhouette of a small gargoyle statue atop the beginning of this banister seen from behind. Sounds of laundry from the other side of the banister. The twitter of birds magnified in this echo-y chamber. A rooster's crow in the distance.
I come out of the shadowy landing and wander around. Through the soaring archways I had witnessed from street level, streams in the white light of a morning in the Caribbean. It strikes the gargoyle statue from the front and transforms it into an armless female figure, her bodice a pink faded with the chemistry of time.
The laundress is on the other side of this banister. By now, she has hung 6, 7 large sheets along the network of clotheslines that run from column to column, and from column to archway all around the room. They billow dreamily in the light breeze. She begins to clip the next sheet. I take my place distant enough from her work and begin a sequence from one of my classes. The flow of this sequence is akin to the task of putting pen to paper and creating an entire drawing without once lifting the pen until the drawing is complete. The shapes of the hands are borrowed from traditional folkloric dances of Cuba.
Back home it seems, my body hardens and moves linearly with angularity. A week on this island smooths out the angles; my body rediscovers circularity, fluidity, centeredness, and strength- and in effect, liberation from itself. The head and neck rejoin the torso in fluid motion. The breastbone, fingertips and toes reach for walls, windows, ceilings and the sky. The breath becomes full and complete. All movement comes from center. To relax becomes essential. Essential to being Cuban.
Here on this island, I find music and rhythm in the tiniest of spaces- and thus, joy.
Knowing all the while that this peak state of strength, fluidity and internal rhythm will melt from my body by this same time next week after a few days of my regular life in front of screens and sitting in chairs. I live two lives. I require constant renewal.
The laundress has exited for the moment. I explore the view from the balcony, and then weave back in through the aisles of white sheets ever growing. Jete away from them. Spin toward them, spin away from them motivated by arms in changing positions, hair falling over my face. Reach for the clotheslines. Loose shoulders and hips. Passe steps off the stage.Leap like a fish out of water.
Tiles of leaping porpoises accompanied by seagulls.
A couch dropped with an unnerving bang! From the sky into the street. Is carried away into another room across the street- a new home for the repurposed soul.
A toilet bowl.
The 10,000 uses of fans.
A plaque commemorating a washing machine mechanic.
Men on styrofoam boats fishing in the dark, only ever in the dark.
Iron red fields under a blistering sun, and an old man working it with a lone ox.
A listing of options when there is only one option.A gift of woodcarved dancing figures in positions of ecstatic reach of the arms and leg.Dull blue shutters. Glorious rays of light through studio windows.Walls of cheerful and brilliant blues. A wall-sized painting of Jemaya, her skirt in motion indistinguishable from the thrashing sea. Dancers through glass walls and glassless windows. Ballerinas walking home from class in full gear and bun held aloft among the general chaos of the streets.A doll-sized living room. Walls of a bright turquoise. Son music crooning from a tiny mp3 player propped along a slim ledge. Cutting under the four count to catch the off beat. Hips as a consequence of the ribcage. I am a little bit Cuban. Elegant, expressive, sensual, playful, and above all- relaxed.
Yellow walls and taped windows surrounded by palm trees blurred by a tropical rain. A marley floor constantly in need of cleaning. Filthy bathrooms with no toilet paper and one sink with running water.Why is there no toilet paper?There is none.There is none in the markets.The smell of stovetop espresso wafting into the studio in the middle of the same sequence every morning. 10,000 spoons of sugar and a drop of coffee. A pair of congas in one corner; an old piano in the back. Sequence after sequence with increased complexity and pace. You must enjoy the moment.
Walls lined with age and peeling so badly as if afflicted with a strange psoriasis. Huge chunks of ochre yellow paint torn off at varying depths to reveal several shades of murky yellow and brown. Wood ceiling above badly torn to reveal more of that ochre history beneath.
Legs in the air. From balancing on forearms and one shoulder, I return to the ground, stand up and dust off my arms, my knees, my black pants. Wipe the sheen of sweat from my forehead, breathe and look around.
Large white sheets billow everywhere across the space. Dozens of smaller dinner napkins are strung across the archway openings, their white folds gleaming against the silhouetted indoors. Beyond the folds lay the clear blue sky, sweet yellow stone banister, crumbling concrete blocks, low roofs topped with bright blue tanks that hold the household rations of water, a ubiquitous object across the roofscape of Havana.
The laundress is no longer alone. She and two other women stand under one of the archways among the strand of gleaming dinner napkins, in casual conversation as they hang the last couple cloths. Soon the laundress picks up her belongings, and leaves the room, her work complete. She pauses for a moment as we notice each other.
Soon after, I gather my belongings and leave too- back down the winding stone staircase and into the street. I am dreaming of breakfast- an egg sandwich on fresh fluffy bread with a smidgen of ketchup for flavor from Don Luigi's Cafeteria. A glass of pineapple juice drunk right at the vendor's window as he comes around to switch the signage and add pizza to the menu for the coming lunch hour.
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Wednesday, November 09, 2016
Sunday, October 09, 2016
Friday, September 23, 2016
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
On this beautiful summer's night, I walked the South Street Bridge home, turning into the Schuylkill riverwalk. My mind and body were still resonating with the rumba and Afro-Cuban folkloric beats. I saw my shadow cast onto the boardwalk and made it dance with me. We quite literally danced our way home. I felt close to the stars.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Friday, October 30, 2015
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Stepping out into the vacant night, a couple hours before the break of dawn, the air is warm for winter and thick with fog. Beams of light from streetlamps streak through the darkness, their light scattered in a hundred thousand different directions by the microscopic droplets; darting, floating and swirling through space, so that the night is made strangely bright-- almost white-- leaving the lone witness of this hour's spell a stranger in a well-worn path, nought but a shadow herself passing through the mist.
Stepping out into the dawn, the birds scatter out of the bushes and trees. Passing by the empty lot of unkempt grass, a bovine figure stands against the far wall, a fixture beneath the cityscape. Tiny sparrows fly toward the fence, settling into the little looped wire openings. One settles next to a rusted padlock. The earthy red of the rust and the charming roundness of the little sparrow are expressions of beauty which sit side-by-side in peace against the golden light of the waking sun. The light is full of promise.
Stepping into the midnight hour, the air is frigid. The church steeple rises high into the navy blue sky and curves to meet the charcoal branches of a giant tree which bends to meet the steeple. They loom across the sky and pull the ground from beneath her feet. Hooded figures head toward one another, and cross without a word, eyes to the ground. The birds are silent, the fence empty.